When our family moved to this Brainerd Lakes area to serve at Camp JIM 14 years ago, I joined a local MOPS group. MOPS stands for Mothers Of Preschoolers. It was a life line for me. Being part of a small group of moms in the same stage of life, sharing their ups and downs, I had so many, “Thank God, I’m normal!” moments. Not to mention the other revelations, like, “and my kids are too.”
So when the leaders put out a request for someone to start an evening MOPS group for working moms, I felt the tug at my heart. My husband agreed that camp would provide a cozy setting for such a group, so I spent quite some time praying about it. Leadership was not something I wanted to pursue, but it was something God had clearly told me was in his plan.
Eventually we did get a small group up and running. Part of that process was finding members to head up what MOPS International calls their “steering team”. This is a team of women who each fill a particular role in the leadership picture, using their gifts and talents to help keep meetings rolling without putting too much strain on just one person. Since I was still kind of new to the area, the leadership of the morning MOPS group were good enough to suggest people I might ask to serve.
I remember calling one of the women on my list and the conversation went something like this…
~ I introduce myself and the purpose of my call, asking if this person would be interested in praying about leading our crafts for the first year.
~ She tells me, “No, way.”
~ I think I sat in stunned silence.
~ She explains, “Every time I step out to serve, bad things happen.” She wasn’t up to painting a target on her back for Satan to take aim. She was going to keep her giftings to herself. She was going to protect herself and her family by not serving.
~ I thanked her for her time and hung up.
WOW. Have you been there?
Fast forward to today. Our church leadership has asked the whole congregation to participate in a Bible reading plan called E100 (Essential 100). It is a 100 day reading plan containing 50 days of Old Testament and 50 days of New… if you’re interested, you can sign up HERE.
The first 5 days took us from Creation to the Tower of Babel. Sunday’s sermon touched on all of the highlights as well, and settled on Babel.
I always wondered how a people could become so will-full, so soon after the flood. God saved Noah and his wife, his sons and their wives, and 2 of each kind of animal. They started over. They survived because they trusted the Lord and obeyed his instructions. God himself shut them up in the ark. And then just a few chapters later we find mankind refusing to disperse and fill the earth as God commanded. Instead, they built a tower with the intention of reaching the heavens.
God came down and observed what they were doing and basically said, this is just going to be the beginning of what they will do… so he confused their language so that new languages were born. They couldn’t understand one another, couldn’t cooperate with each other to complete their project, and so they left off and finally did disperse.
I always thought of this as a cut and dry example of disobedience and consequences, but Sunday our pastor asked a lot of questions to stoke our curiosity.
“What if stories of the flood were still fresh?” he asked.
“And what if they didn’t trust God’s rainbow… his promise to never flood the earth again?”
You can finish the rest of the thought, I’m sure. It would make sense why a people might want to build a tower so high. Of course, no one can outwit God.
Yet, what are we seeing here? A loving, merciful father disciplines in a way that leads his children’s hearts to trust Him. God’s response was compassionate, to move the people away from their destructive bent….away from the pride that separated them from Him.
Obedience is just obedience unless it is born out of love. I can force my children to obey me, but strong arming them into no appearance of evil doesn’t guarantee a right heart. We can do the right things for all the wrong reasons. Only a right heart can be in relationship with God. Our heart is God’s main concern. It should be ours as well.
I thought back to the woman who refused to serve because she wanted to insulate herself from suffering. I realized there have been times that I too would have preferred to lock myself in the highest tower.
And yet, God says HE is our strong tower and our refuge. “Trust Me,” he whispers.
Last summer I was out hiking in a state park with my husband during our family’s annual camping trip. We always get away together to regroup after the busy youth camp season. A storm swept in quicker than we could get back to the camper and we got DRENCHED. Eventually we came upon a set of bathrooms and hugged ourselves up against the walls of the building, resting under the eaves, and watched until the intensity of the storm eased. The heavy rains bounced off the rocks and gravel and over my feet which were already soggy, but the rest of me was sheltered. I heard God’s voice then, whisper to my heart that storms of life would come, the likes of which I’ve never seen.
“Lean in close to me,” He said and added, “Your feet might get wet, but I will keep you safe.”
What a beautiful promise.
God doesn’t prevent us from experiencing life. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a vanilla faith. I want to be deeply rooted and grounded in faith. That means that when trials come, I may get my feet wet, but God is always there with His protection. He makes sure I grow, but am not overcome; that I can persevere, but am not destroyed. We’ll never know how often God rescues us from things we do not even see.
The children of God live life in a bubble of grace.
Paul wrote about the apostles who were sacrificing to carry the gospel to the unsaved, in 2 Corinthians 4:7-9
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;”